HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Cherry OrchardAct 1 Gayev Talks Too Much Summary

The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Act 1, Gayev Talks Too Much | Summary

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Summary

The friends continue to visit and Pishchik asks for money to pay his debts, but Varya answers with alarm that they have "nothing, nothing at all!" Lyubov Andreyevna gazes at the orchard and expresses both joy and despair as she reminisces about it. She thinks she sees her dead mother walking in the orchard, but she realizes it is just her imagination.

Trofimov, a dear family friend, "eternal student," and former tutor of Lyubov Andreyevna's dead young son arrives to see the family. They are all amazed at how old Trofimov looks. He and Lyubov Andreyevna are overcome with emotion. Pishchik keeps asking for a loan. Anya and Varya are increasingly anxious about the financial strain on the estate and the imminent loss of their home. Gayev makes plans to borrow money, possibly from a wealthy great-aunt. Trofimov reveals tender feelings for Anya as the act ends.

Analysis

With Trofimov's entrance all the key people in Lyubov Andreyevna's life have now appeared on the scene. He, too, is part of her past. She is fond of him, but he reminds her of her dead son and the dilemmas she now faces. Like the cherry orchard, Trofimov represents how the past is conflicted, filled with good memories but also tragedies that people long to forget.

The cherry orchard is now positioned as the center of the characters' lives—past, present, and future. Even characters that love it dearly, such as Lyubov Andreyevna, struggle with competing feelings about it. This in turn signals their struggle with their shifting change of status. The fact that Pishchik is another landowner begging for money provides additional evidence that the aristocracy is fading.

Gayev's inability to stop his inconsequential babbling suggest his plans to raise money to save the orchard will lead to nothing. He is all talk but no action. Earlier in the play he rattled on about a 100-year-old bookcase, romanticizing it as the noble symbol of an aristocratic way of life, but that lifestyle is clearly on the way out. He admits that his speech about the bookcase was stupid and he shouldn't talk so much (his nieces agree). Unfortunately this doesn't stop Gayev from blurting soon after that "it is not for nothing that the peasant loves me," an unlikely scenario given how social status has shifted against aristocratic landowners. Like his sister, Gayev is trying too hard to hold onto the past in the face of unstoppable change.

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